A week without a cell

Saturday, May 5, 2007 | 1:00 a.m. CDT; updated 2:15 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Lauren Sweet, MU journalism student (Her editor suggested this experiment.)

We all appreciate the beauty of the cell phone. Most of us consider it as much a necessity as a set of wheels. Cells figure prominently in movies like “The Departed,” where text messaging is a matter of life and death. And in “Cellular,” a kidnapped woman’s smashed phone still sends out a rescue call.

I use my phone to wake up, even though I have an alarm clock. I can set the phone’s wake-up call just once, and it sounds every day thereafter if I so choose … not that I do. I’m an avid text messenger, too. I text things like “What are u doin” that could be answered much quicker via a call. There’s something so amazing and simple in sending a few words to communicate with someone who is probably not even far away.

So when my editor thought it might be an interesting experiment to forego my cell phone for a week (with no resorting to a landline as a substitute), I was understandably frightened. How would I survive?

It turns out I could, and I did. It also turns out that waking up to an alarm clock is not so bad. Instead of rolling over to press a button on my phone, I had to (GASP) get out of bed to hit the snooze button. Things you plug in: one. Wireless technology: zero.

My second day, I ran into problems when my radio alarm clock didn’t alarm me. Either I had set the alarm and forgotten to turn it on, or it had magically turned itself off. Luckily, I woke up approximately 12 minutes before my class began.

As the days wore on, I became increasingly frustrated. I had known life without a cell phone would be hard, but I hadn’t realized how hard. My primary method of communication became AOL Instant Messenger. Did you know you can send text messages to a friend’s phone via instant message? You do now. This was a brilliant discovery. Maybe it was cheating a little bit, but I don’t recall being forbidden to use computers. Things you plug in: two. Wireless technology: still zero.

I began to grow jealous of people on their phones. I missed the easy accessibility to friends and family. My phone had always been there like a security blanket. Despite my frustrations, I eventually grew accustomed to not using my cell. It wasn’t so bad not worrying where I had put it or if I had missed any calls. I began to acknowledge that if people really needed to contact me, they knew where I live. My roommate hardly gets reception on her cell phone, anyway.

The grievances of dropped calls, static-infested calls and calls I’d rather avoid were gone. Although I couldn’t help feeling detached from the outside world, this wasn’t necessarily a bad sensation.

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